IS SELECTIVE MUTISM ASSOCIATED WITH DEFICITS IN MEMORY SPAN AND VISUAL MEMORY?: AN EXPLORATORY CASE-CONTROL STUDY


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Abstract

Our main aim in this study was to explore the association between selective mutism (SM) and aspects of nonverbal cognition such as visual memory span and visual memory. Auditory-verbal memory span was also examined. The etiology of SM is unclear, and it probably represents a heterogeneous condition. SM is associated with language impairment, but nonspecific neurodevelopmental factors, including motor problems, are also reported in SM without language impairment. Furthermore, SM is described in Asperger's syndrome. Studies on nonverbal cognition in SM thus merit further investigation. Neuropsychological tests were administered to a clinical sample of 32 children and adolescents with SM (ages 6-17 years, 14 boys and 18 girls) and 62 nonreferred controls matched for age, gender, and socioeconomic status. We used independent t-tests to compare groups with regard to auditory-verbal memory span, visual memory span, and visual memory (Benton Visual Retention Test), and employed linear regression analysis to study the impact of SM on visual memory, controlling for IQ and measures of language and motor function. The SM group differed from controls on auditory-verbal memory span but not on visual memory span. Controlled for IQ, language, and motor function, the SM group did not differ from controls on visual memory. Motor function was the strongest predictor of visual memory performance. SM does not appear to be associated with deficits in visual memory span or visual memory. The reduced auditory-verbal memory span supports the association between SM and language impairment. More comprehensive neuropsychological studies are needed.

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